Thursday 29 June 2017

Great damage has been done to the EU project - and there may well be more to come

Britain's departure is a disaster and the UK may be followed out by other countries, writes Colm McCarthy

No direction: The foreign ministers from the EU’s founding six states in the park of the German Foreign Ministry’s guest house Villa Borsig yesterday where they met to discuss Brexit. Photo: AP
No direction: The foreign ministers from the EU’s founding six states in the park of the German Foreign Ministry’s guest house Villa Borsig yesterday where they met to discuss Brexit. Photo: AP
Colm McCarthy

Colm McCarthy

The decision to take Britain out of the European Union hurts Ireland's economic prospects and some more air has escaped from the fiscal-space balloon. The departure threatens the survival of two unions, the EU and the United Kingdom itself, and the negative reaction in financial markets has not been overdone.

The Remain campaign was accused of mounting Project Fear, warning of major economic risks. There was certainly some spurious precision in their warnings but there was no exaggeration. This is a serious injection of instability into a fragile European and world economy and great, and apparently unintended, damage has been done.

British voters have declined the advice of the political establishment for the first time at a national referendum, on only the third occasion they have been offered the opportunity. Irish politicians could have warned them that referendum defeats are an occupational hazard. David Cameron, the referendum's instigator, has, unsurprisingly, resigned. As with the invasion of Iraq, this was a war of choice, not necessity, and Cameron could not credibly stay on. There is something offhand about deciding an issue of such complexity, and such historical consequence, via a narrow result in a once-off referendum. Britain, it was remarked, acquired its nineteenth-century empire in a fit of absent-mindedness. It has now placed at risk the European political order in like fashion.

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